Liong Sik guilty of pure sophistry in trying to explain away Mahathir’s outrageous Merdeka Day message

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang 

(Petaling Jaya,  Saturday): I must congratulate MCA President, Datuk Seri Dr. Ling Liong Sik for waking up like Rip Van Winkle as to realise after ten days that there was nation-wide outrage at the 43rd Merdeka Day Message of the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad where he likened the Malaysian Chinese Organisations' Election Appeals Committee (Suqiu) to the Al-Ma’unah movement  and to those of the "communists in the past" for "fanning racial sentiments".

However, Liong Sik was guilty of pure sophistry in his unbelievable and outrageous attempt to explain away Mahahtir’s outrageous Merdeka Day message.

Liong Sik made two points yesterday: firstly, Mahathir  was not referring to the Suqiu group when he likened Chinese extremists in the country to communists in his National Day message, and secondly, that he would  personally explain to the Prime Minister that Suqiu  is different from the communists.

These two statements are self-contradictory, as there should be nothing for Liong Sik to explain to Mahathir if the Prime Minister was not referring to Suqiu when  he likened Chinese extremists in the country.

Furthermore, if Mahathir was not referring to the Suqiu group when he likened Chinese extremists in the country to communists, who was the Prime Minister referring to - could it be MCA, Gerakan and SUPP which openly endorsed the Suqiu last August and publicly claimed that the Cabinet had "approved the Suqiu in principle" which is challenged by UMNO leaders?

The only trouble for Liong Sik is that he is a minority of one to believe that the Prime Minister was not comparing Suqiu with the communists of yesteryears.

Can Liong Sik explain why it had taken him ten days to realise that the Prime Minister was not referring to Suqiu to the communists, or why he had not clarified earlier  so as to calm the nation-wide outrage, if  he really  believed in this version?

Alternatively, why he did not ask for  an appointment with Mahathir at the first available opportunity after the Merdeka Day message even before the Prime Minister left for the United States to get him to withdraw and apologise for his outrageous comparison.

This is such an important issue affecting inter-communal harmony, nation-building and the country’s investment potentials that  I took the  unprecedented action on Wednesday to send an urgent Email Open Letter to all Ministers before the Cabinet meeting urging it to  "boldly and wisely grasp the nettle of worsening racial and religious polarisation in the country" by  apologising for the Prime Minister’s 43rd Merdeka Day Message as well as clarifying the Cabinet’s position on Suqiu at its meeting on Sept. 22, 1999.

But there was no response from the Cabinet except for Liong Sik’s pure sophistry which insults not only the Prime Minister but the intelligence of all Malaysians.

Is Liong Sik seriously suggesting that Mahathir did not know what he was talking about or did not mean what he meant?

Or is he now blaming the journalists and newspapers for twisting and distorting Mahathir’s National Day message, which would be most irresponsible and anti-national and under the Barisan Nasional style of governance, earn the journalists a term under the Internal Security Act for undermining inter-racial harmony and national security?

Let us look at the front-page headlines in the mass media  the next day (August 31, 2000) on Mahathir’s 43rd Merdeka Day message.

Utusan Malaysia’s headline reads: "PM bidas extremis Cina - ‘Tindak-tanduk mereka tidak banyak berbeza dengan komunis’" and started  with the following lead:

Berita Harian’s front-page  headline "Hentikan permainan api perkauman: PM" led off with the lead: New Straits Times carried the front-page headline "PM: Don’t play with fire - ‘Fanning racial sentiments can threaten nation’s stability’" and led off with the following: Similar headlines and reports were carried by the other newspapers, such as "Stop fanning racial feelings - Mahathir warns extremist groups" (Sun), "PM - Don’t play with racial sentiments - accuses Suqiu an extremist organisation" (Sin Chew Jit Poh), "PM accuses Suqiu of inciting sentiments - ‘Extremist conduct like Al-Ma’unah’" (Nanyang Siang Pau) and "Suqiu hurts Malays - PM likens to communist-style action" (China Press)

From these newspaper reports, there is no doubt that Liong Sik’s  contention that Mahathir was not referring to the Suqiu group when he likened Chinese extremists in the country to communists in his National Day message was completely baseless and a cowardly attempt to run away from the facts.

Liong Sik should indeed meet Mahathir, not to give him misleading information and wrong advice, but to boldly tell the Prime Minister that his 43rd Merdeka Day message was completely unacceptable and most disgraceful  to come  from any Malaysian  leader, shamed all Malaysians and that Mahathir should unreservedly  apologise  and withdraw the message


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman